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Going to Extremes for Enzymes

Extremophiles thriving in thermal springs where the water temperature can be close to boiling can be a rich source of enzymes for the deconstruction of lignocellulose.

In the search for enzymes that can break lignocellulose down into biofuel sugars under the extreme conditions of a refinery, chemist Douglas Clark prospects for extremophilic microbes and engineers cellulases of his own.

Cool Roofs in China Can Save Energy and Reduce Emissions

China climate zone map

Working with Chinese researchers, Berkeley Lab has conducted the first comprehensive study of cool roofs in China and concluded that they would be effective in substantially reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in climate zones with hot summers.

Competition for Graphene

Illustration of a MoS2/WS2  heterostructure with a MoS2 monolayer lying on top of a WS2 monolayer. Electrons and holes created by light are shown to separate into different layers. (Image courtesy of Feng Wang group)

Berkeley Lab reports the first experimental observation of ultrafast charge transfer in photo-excited MX2 materials, the graphene-like two-dimensional semiconductors. Charge transfer time clocked in at under 50 femtoseconds, comparable to the fastest times recorded for organic photovoltaics.

Air Quality in San Joaquin Valley Improving: Study Shows Controls to Reduce Nitrogen Oxide Emissions Are Working

Bakersfield pollution thumb

A study led by Berkeley Lab’s Ronald Cohen has shown that nitrogen oxide emission controls are improving the notorious air quality in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Bionic Liquids from Lignin

Blake Simmon Ionic_Liquid thumb

Bionic liquids – solvents made from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production – show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of biofuels refineries.

How Sweet It Is: New Tool for Characterizing Plant Sugar Transporters Developed at Joint BioEnergy Institute

A family of six nucleotide sugar transporters never before  described have been characterized in Arabidopsis, a model plant for research in advanced biofuels. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

JBEI researchers have developed a powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy – an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters, critical components in the biosynthesis of plant cell walls.

The iCLEM Program: An Atypical Summer Job for Bay Area High School Students

iCLEM students thumb

Eight Bay Area high school students are participating in this summer’s iCLEM program, earning money and gaining “college knowledge” while conducting bioenergy research in the state-of-the-art scientific laboratories of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI).

First Ab Initio Method for Characterizing Hot Carriers Could Hold the Key to Future Solar Cell Efficiencies

A new and better way to study “hot” carriers in semiconductors, a major source of efficiency loss in solar cells, has been developed by scientists at Berkeley Lab. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. This should help clear a major road block to the development of new, more efficient solar cells.

Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge

Photosytem II utilizes a water-splitting manganese-calcium enzyme that when energized by sunlight catalyzes a four photon-step cycle of oxidation states that ultimately yields molecular oxygen.

Using the world’s most powerful x-ray laser, an international collaboration led by Berkeley Lab researchers took femtosecond “snapshots” of water oxidation in photosystem II, the only known biological system able to harness sunlight for splitting the water molecule. The results should help advance the development of artificial photosynthesis for clean, green and renewable energy.

Advanced Light Source Provides New Look at Skyrmions: Results Hold Promise for Spintronics

Advanced Light Source images of a Cu2SeO3 sample show five sets of dual-peak skyrmion structures, highlighted by the white ovals. The dual peaks represent the two skyrmion sub-lattices that rotate with respect to each other. All peaks fall on an arc (dotted line) representing the constant amplitude of the skyrmion wave vector.

At Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, researchers for the first time have used x-rays to observe and study skyrmions, subatomic quasiparticles that could play a key role in future spintronic technologies.